OnePlus Nord Buds Review – Good Performance With Few Compromises

 


Apple's audacity to ditch the audio jack on the iPhone ushered in the era of serious wireless earphones six years ago. In the early stages, most bluetooth earphones on the market were unsatisfactory with unstable connection issues, tin-like audio and too short battery life.


After six years TWS technology has advanced and now there are wireless earphones that support high resolution audio through LDAC and also have excellent ANC support. But the selling price has also increased so that most consumers cannot afford it.



OnePlus Nords Buds went on sale in Malaysia in mid-July at a price of RM299. The price is affordable when compared to what is offered by Apple, Samsung and Sony. What compromises did OnePlus take to produce these earphones and more importantly are they worth it or not?


Specifications

OnePlus Nord Buds

Type of in-ear headphones

12.4 mm Titanium Drivers

Microphone 4 microphones

7 hour battery

30 Hours with charging pod

USB-C charging port

Wireless charging None

CODEC AAC, SBC

All operating systems are supported

Virtual assistant support None

Control Pad Yes

IP55 waterproof capability

Selling Price RM 299

The earphones are of the bud type with a 12.4mm audio driver that has a diaphragm made of titanium. Larger driver size when compared to AiPods Gen 3 and Galaxy Buds2 which are sold at a more premium price. Each audio bud is also equipped with two microphones to carry out conversations and supports a noise cancellation system.



We're less fond of the Nord Buds' audio bud counterparts because they're boxy on the stem which makes them a little less comfortable to remove from the charging pod. On the catch side there is a round contact pad. This touchpad supports standard one-press controls to pause/play music, skip forward and skip backward.


The audio bud is of the standard design type with a silicone part inserted into the ear hole. We are quite comfortable with the given size of silicon but OnePlus provides two more pairs of silicon buds – one bigger and one smaller. After being inserted into the ear it is still not tight enough to prevent outside noise from entering the ear.



Nord Buds are from the basic class so there is no additional feature of a sensor that pauses the music as soon as it is removed from the ear and resumes it when it detects the ear. It also feels very plastic when compared to the finish on the AirPods, Sony Linkbuds and Buds Pro.


We feel the smooth plastic finish on the Nord Buds is the same as the one used on the Galaxy Buds2. Like the Buds2, the Nord Buds have the issue of being too slippery to be a little difficult to pull out of the charging pod. This is because the magnet used on the charging pod is quite strong. It can hold Nord Buds in the storage pod even upside down. Incidents of the audio buds easily falling out of the storage pods are difficult on the Nord Buds. Even if it falls, there is no need to worry because the Nord Buds audio buds pass the IP55 standard.



The charging pod is also made of shiny plastic material with a magnetic cover to prevent it from opening easily when stored in a bag. Again we're not fond of this plastic finish as it makes the Nord Buds feel cheap like an OEM audio product.


There are LED lights on the front for battery level and docking status. On the back is a USB-C charging port and a manual docking button. We quite like audio products that come with physical tether buttons because they're so much easier to use. One thing the Nord Buds don't include is wireless charging. Only wired charging is supported.



Use and Software

There is no Google Fast Pair support on Android devices. Instead only OnePlus Fast Pair support is provided on OnePlus devices. Disappointing as this is a feature that should be standard for an Android device manufacturer to save time.


Additional on non-OnePlus devices and computers can be done by pressing the physical tether button until the light flashes like Ultraman's chest. We recommend users to download the HeyMelody app on Android and iOS devices for a better user experience.



The app is needed to upgrade the firmware, change various touchpad settings, activate Game Mode and access the equalizer to change the sound tone of the Nord Buds. The setting to activate fast tethering exchange mode between two devices can also only be activated via HeyMelody.


OnePlus says the Nord Buds have an artificial intelligence system for noise cancellation. But on HeyMelody there is no setting to control the strength of this feature or activate the transparent mode. Being used to using earphones and headphones with see-through mode, we felt its absence. Often times in the office we have to pause to pull out the Nord Buds to chat with colleagues because there is no passthrough mode.


Audio Quality

The audio quality is surprising for a TWS that sells for RM299. At this price we originally thought the audio might not be loud enough, noisy, not dynamic enough and have tethering issues but this didn't pass at all.



On the other hand it is powerful enough to play music from various genres. We quite like using the Nord Buds to listen to rock and acoustic music. Treble is loud and clear even at high audio settings. Every instrument played can be heard clearly without it becoming noisy. Rarely do earphones in the affordable class deliver an audio experience like this.


Sound staging is a little limited but this is something that cannot be avoided with in-ear headphones. The only drawback is that the bass is less explosive even when the equalizer is selected to amplify it. Therefore we feel Nord Buds are more suitable for listening to instrumental, classical, pop and rock music.



There is a gaming mode that we feel does not provide any significant changes because even in normal mode we feel that there is no significant time gap in the first time we play.


We rank the Nord Buds audio experience only slightly below the Galaxy Buds2 which sell for almost twice as much. The ability to prevent external noise from entering the ear cavity is better than AirPods Gen 3 which is sold at a price almost three times higher.


Microphone

The microphone quality is also good. While attending several teleconference sessions, our voices could be heard clearly and did not sound disjointed. Phone calls can also be made bright and clear. There were no issues reported by those who received calls from us.


Battery

The ear bud battery can last up to 7 hours. In use throughout the review period, it lasted up to 6 hours on high audio settings most of the time. Can almost last a day at the office. The charging pod offers another 23 hours of usage life. There is a fast charging mode that allows the ear buds to be used for 5 hours after charging for just 10 minutes. But for a real full charge with the charging pod, it takes around 2 hours.



In the box

Here's what you get with every device purchase in Malaysia.


1x OnePlus Nord Buds.

1x USB-A to USB-C charging cable.

2x Install the silicone bud.

1x Sticker.

1x Manual.

Conclusion

OnePlus Nord Buds offer a satisfying audio experience despite being sold at an affordable price. In terms of audio performance, it almost matches the audio quality of Galalxy Buds2 and AirPods Gen 3 which are sold at a much higher price. Perfect for listening to pop, rock, instrumental and classical music because of the balanced sound. It is also IP55 waterproof which makes it suitable for exercise. With a battery of up to 7 hours on a single charge and 30 hours with the help of a storage pod, the Nord Buds offer excellent usage time.



The only downside is that the bass is not quite satisfying for fans of EDM music, and hip hop. The lack of ANC support and transparent mode is also very noticeable. For those who have never used TWS with these two features, their absence may not be a big deal.


At a price of RM299, it provides a better audio experience than its selling price. No more premium features but at this low price, the compromise of no ANC system, see-through mode and wireless charging is forgivable.


Pro


Better audio experience than expected.

Compact storage pod design.

Very good battery life.

Good application support.

IP55 waterproof.

Responsive touchpad.

Cons


Bass is not strong enough.

No ANC or passthrough mode.

The plastic finish feels a little cheap.

No Google Fast Pair.a

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